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Rewriting your tagline for true clarity

Danny Ruspandini - Impact Labs Australia
Danny R.

Revising positioning statements, messaging and taglines can be a pretty non-linear process. One thing doesn’t necessarily flow into another.

In the early stages of business or during a rebrand, it’s more likely that these items will flow into each other as part of a structured development process. In reality though, once the business is established they’ll be revised often, so keeping them on point and aligned to each other becomes an ongoing challenge.

Creating a tagline for your organisation can be a lot of fun… but where do you start? What value does it actually add, and how can you ensure it’s worth the time and effort to write?

Following is a basic process for starting and iterating on your tagline to get things rolling.

Opt for clarity, rather than cute or clever

Unless your organisation is a household name and needs no introduction, your tagline can play an important role in spotlighting who you are and how you help.

If everyone else in your industry is sporting cute and clever taglines, being crystal clear might be the thing that separates you.

Cute and clever requires people to burn energy figuring things out, clarity does not. (If you’d like to read a short book written 20+ years ago that explains this concisely and in a way that is still 100% relevant today, check out Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug).

Struggling for clarity? Start with a simple formula and build on it

If you want people to buy things from you, make it easy for them. The simplest formula to start from is “We do <this thing> for <these people>.

Pick one and fill in the blanks:

  • We provide ________ for ________;
  • We help ________ with ________;
  • We do ________ for ________.

Eg: We provide training for HR managers.

If providehelp or do don’t work for your service, insert your own verb.

To tagline-ify it, you could drop the “We”: Providing training for HR managers.

Substitute words that aren’t quantifiable

If you choose to expand on your tagline, be meaningful.

Saying Providing the best training for HR managers is nice, but it’s a cop-out. Anyone can claim to be the best, and many do. The best what? Best cost? Best turnaround time? Best training room layout? If it’s not meaningful, substitute it.

Providing industry recognised training for HR managers however – while it’s not going to win any copywriting awards – is measurable. You can’t claim it (truthfully) if it’s not true. Plus it’s heading in the direction of clarity, so now you can revise and build on it.

Avoid using “and” if possible

Providing industry recognised training and recruitment solutions for HR managers might be accurate, but now it’s diluting your message. It’s also getting pretty wordy.

If you have many offerings in one space, then each of them individually is likely not where your organisation’s value lies, and you shouldn’t load up your tagline with them. Your positioning might need work. Strong taglines are built on total clarity in what you do and who you serve, and positioning brings that clarity.

Strong taglines are built on crystal clear positioning.

Rewrite and cut

Keep revising your tagline, and with each pass see if you can remove a word, trim three words down to two, or clarify further. Get it as tight and as clear as possible – readers will appreciate the minimal brain power you’re asking of them.

For instance, in our example you could now drop the word “Providing”: Industry recognised training for HR managers.

Don’t fear terminology that only people in your industry would know

If you provide services that comply to a particular industry standard, or that uses a known industry process, you have a very powerful filter.

Using more general terms might feel like you’re casting a wider net, but the buy-in from the people you catch will be weaker. Buy-in from your terminology-aware crowd will be unshakable.

Say your tagline out loud to a real person

Taglines can look spectacular on paper or screen – now say it to real humans and gauge their reactions. If you get wrinkled noses and squinty eyes looking back at you, something hasn’t landed with them.

Revise, cut, clarify and try again until you get that look of recognition – raised eyebrows, wide eyes, nodding – like a lightbulb has switched on in their head.

Bonus points if they actually think of someone that fits in your bullseye. If they say “Oh wow, Deb is in HR and has a whole team of managers, you should tell her about this”, you’re in a good place!

In summary

Taglines don’t always have to be so literal, but they should be clear. The best of them work hand-in-hand with well defined positioning statements.

Forcing superlatives, a clever turn-of-phrase, double meanings, made-up terms or anything that could be defined as clever or cute into a tagline is not necessarily a no-no, but it might indicate that your positioning is not totally nailed down, and could cost you in missed opportunities.

Spend some time there to ensure you’re putting out your best version of everything. Clarity in positioning and taglines leads to more effective marketing, more engaged teams, and will ultimately reflect in customer loyalty.

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